Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform

Part narrative, part analysis, this seventeenth
edition of ALEC’s education-policy report card offers reformers a hearty pat on
the back—and then delivers a swift kick in the pants. Split into five chapters,
the report rehashes reform victories (in the areas of school choice and teacher quality, mainly) from the past year. As
authors Matt Ladner and Daniel Lips note, these reformy ideas have hit the
mainstream (exemplified by Obama’s embrace of charters and meaningful teacher
evaluations). But, they also remind us, saying and doing are distant cousins.
In a subsequent chapter, they showcase states’ meager academic-achievement
gains on NAEP, breaking these gains down by race and socioeconomic and disabled
status. (Florida, unsurprisingly, fares best on these
metrics.) And then comes the pain: Using a revised set of indicators (based on last year’s report-card
), Ladner and Lips rank states’ overall education-policy scores (yes,
much like our own city-based
from summer 2010) on six categories: academic standards (measured by
cut-score rigor), charter laws, homeschooling regulations, teacher-quality
policies, virtual schools, and private-school choice. The unexpected upshot:
Missouri has the strongest education-policy package out there. Florida and
Minnesota round out the top three with B-pluses, both. Indiana—even with its top-notch reform
package this year
—earns a B (as does Ohio). The average grade for the states is a
depressing C-plus. A detailed methodology is absent (how were the six
indicators weighted; how, specifically, was cut-score rigor assigned?). Can
this be oversight, as Missouri’s top marks (and Indiana’s lower scores) are
sure to raise eyebrows (or, in our case, little buggy antennae). The Show Me
State is number one? Could be, but not likely. Kindly show us the data!

Matthew Ladner and
Daniel Lips, Report Card on American Education: Ranking State
K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform
(Washington, D.C.:
American Legislative Exchange Council, 2012).

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